Born in the Philippines, Ariel Bagadiong, was surrounded with his culture’s food and the encouragement of this mother to learn how to cook and appreciate good cuisine. He brings this passion for Asian cooking to his position as Executive Chef at aja in the dana hotel & spa. aja, is an urban restaurant featuring modern, Asian-American cooking while highlighting the season’s most vibrant seasonal flavours.
Upon moving to the states as a teenager, Bagadiong continued to work on his cooking skills through his extended family. Following high school, he signed up at the Culinary School of Kendall College in Chicago and internationally in Switzerland, France, Italy and Germany under the Kendall College European program.
Bagadiong returned from Europe and began to specialize strictly in pastries and desserts. Starting in the kitchen as pastry/garde manger at Mango in Chicago, with Executive Chef Steven Chiappetti at the helm, he was encouraged to expand his knowledge of various cuisines and hone his abilities with savoury cooking. Under the guidance of Chef Chiappetti, Bagadiong developed a variety of cooking styles, as well as gained exposure to unique ingredients and flavours.
Bagadiong’s extensive experience in the Chicago hotel and restaurant scene includes successful stints as Sous Chef at vegetarian restaurant Blind Faith Café; Pastry Chef for Mossant Bistro at the Hotel Monaco; Executive Banquet Chef/Pastry Chef at the W Hotel on Lakeshore; Executive Pastry Chef at Blue Water Grill; Kitchen Manager/Chef Instructor for The Chopping Block and Executive Sous Chef at aja from its opening in 2008, before being named Executive Chef in October 2010.
Chef Bagadiong has enjoyed marrying his Asian roots with modern American cooking at Aja and is continuing to use the diverse skills he has gained through his global travels on the menu.